By: Elaine Hamilton
I brace myself for a small disaster as I watch Josh drag the garden hose into the living room, lay on his belly under the Christmas tree, and yell to his dad, “Okay, turn it on!” I could protest, but no one would listen to me so I practice letting go instead. The boys like to go big. They have already brought home a tree so ginormous it does not fit in the house. They gave it a try, but it scraped the ceiling pretty badly (“Where’s my star going to go?” I say), so they haul it back outside and shave a few feet off with the chain saw. It dawns on me then that perhaps this is part of their plan – finding a reason to fire up the chain saw.
But this is how they roll. This is what makes Christmas fun for them. Their goal is to pick a tree big enough to cause trouble. To make it hard to get into the living room, or to create a fire hazard because there are branches literally sticking into the fireplace. Selecting a tree is not about looking for fullness or symmetry, it’s about shock and awe.
Somehow this has become one of our traditions. Without my knowledge or consent, the boys have commandeered the tree picking. No girls allowed. Too much trouble, they say. So now the girls heat up cider, (these days fortified with whiskey since the kids are grown – Katie’s contribution), and pull out the Christmas socks for however many of us there are on tree day.
The truth is, they rescued us from what used to be a less than peaceful trip to the tree lot. While other families are holding hands and singing Kumbaya, we (mostly Ken and I) are fighting for power (“But that tree is ugly!”) and are inches away from an all-out brawl. So, clearly, even with the hose in the house and the damage to the ceiling, this is way more fun.
For us, creating a merry Christmas is partly about acknowledging and letting go of things that don’t work for us and trying something new in its place. Just because we did it when we were kids or because other families do it, doesn’t mean we have to. If it doesn’t serve us, if it doesn’t facilitate the making of happy memories, what’s the point? How many times have we ended up stressed or hurt and angry, trying to do something just because we thought we were supposed to. The value of traditions lies not in getting them done but in the memories they create, and the ways they bond us together. Letting go of one that doesn’t work creates space for something that does. But it will probably take some negotiating. Maybe this year you’d like to start that conversation with your loved ones. Invite them to share their desires for this holiday season and brainstorm together. What do we want to keep doing together? Are there some things we want to let go of? What new things would we like to try?
I hope your Christmas is mostly sweet this year. For sure some things will go wrong – someone will be grumpy, something important will be forgotten, perhaps the tree will catch fire (a good possibility at our house) but in the middle of all the imperfect, I hope you will have some lovely, tender, bonding moments with the people you love.
From all of us here at the Soul Care House, a very sincere wish for a very merry Christmas!